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11.12.2012 00:42    Comments: 0    Categories: Writing Theme  Fiction Writing  Writing  Writing Craft      Tags: h. thomas milhorn  theme  subject  genre  fiction  guide  craft  

Key Elements (From Chapter 1 of  Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H.T. Milhorn)

 

To create a fictional world that seems real to readers, writers use a minimum of six key elements:

 

1. Plot, Story and Structure
2. Setting
3. Characters
4. Point of View
5. Prose
6. Theme and Subject

 

THEME AND SUBJECT

 

A THEME is the understanding that the author seeks to communicate through his work. It is the central and unifying idea about which the story is structured. It is the meaning or concept we are left with after reading a piece of fiction.

 

Examples of themes are “oppression leads to oppression,” “managed care is bad for patients,” “global warming is over-hyped,” and “love is difficult.” The theme for L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) might be stated “If you believe that you have the strength and ability to accomplish a goal, then you do have that strength and ability.” The theme of my novel Caduceus Awry (2000) is “Man can overcome personal demons to achieve a desired end.”

 

Theme directs a writer’s decisions about which path to take, which choice is right for the story, and which choice is wrong for it. With theme, the writer actually structures his writing on a concept that guides him from start to finish. A theme that best suits the story the writer wants to tell helps him express his central idea more clearly.

 

In some works the theme is a prominent element and unmistakable; in other works the theme is more elusive. A major theme is an idea the author returns to time and again. It becomes one of the most important ideas in the story. Minor themes are ideas that may appear from time to time, but are less important. All that said, because the major aim of genre novels is to entertain, not to express a point of view, not every genre novel has a theme.10,11,23,29,38,39

 

The SUBJECT of a literary work is the topic on which an author has chosen to write, as opposed to the theme which expresses some opinion on that topic. For example, the subject of a story might be “war” while the theme might be the idea that “war is unnecessary” or “war is bad.23

 

References


  1. Bishop, Leonard, Dare to be a Great Writer, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1992.
  2. Silvester, Niko, Creative Writing for Teens, http://teenwriting.about.com/library/weekly/aa111102a.htm.
  3. Wayman, Anne, Craft v. Art, Romance Writing Tips, http://groups.msn.com/RomanceWritingTips/craftvart.msnw.
  4. Fiction Genre Definitions, Manus & Associates Literary Agency, http://www.manuslit.com/flash/index.html.
  5. Meinhardt, Shelly Thacker, Market Savvy for Fiction Writers: Popular Fiction vs. Literary Fiction, http://www.shellythacker.com/marketsavvy.htm, 2004.
  6. Zackheim, Sarah Parsons, and Adrian Zackheim, Getting Your Book Published For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2000.
  7. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
  8. Brown, Dan, The Da Vinci Code, Doubleday, New York, 2003.
  9. Dibell, Ansen, Plot, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1999.
  10. Elements of fiction, http://www.newton.mec.edu/brown/ENGLISH/eng_elements_of_fiction.html.
  11. Elements of fiction, VirtuaLit : Interactive Fiction Tutorial, http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/fiction/elements.asp.
  12. Kilian, Crawford, Advice on novel writing, http://www.steampunk.com/sfch/writing/ckilian/#6.
  13. Kittredge, Mary, Hot to Plot! A Plotting “System” that Works, In The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Novel Writing, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1992, pp 56-61.
  14. Lake, Lori L., Plot: Part Two, Navigating dangerous terrain, http://www.justaboutwrite.com/A_Archive_Plot2LL.html, 2003.
  15. Swain, Dwight V., Techniques of the Selling Writer, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1974.
  16. Article: In the Beginning, Writing and Publishing, Suite101.Comhttp://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/novel_writing/18290/1.
  17. Kress, Nancy, Beginnings, Middles & Ends, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1999.
  18. Hinze, Vickey, Exposition vs. Narrative, http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/exposition.html.
  19. Rasley, Alicia, End Thoughts, Writers’ Corner, http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/art1.htm, 1997.
  20. Allen, Moira, Four ways to bring setting to life, http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/settings.shtml.
  21. Kay, Kim, It’s your world: Setting your novel: It’s Your Novel, Suite101.com, http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/novel_writing/13665/1, December 15, 1998.
  22. Kelman, Judith, How to write and publish a novel, http://www.jkelman.com/fiction/index.html.
  23. Bokesch, Laura, Literary terms, Literary elements, Academy of the Arts, http://www.orangeusd.k12.ca.us/yorba/literary_elements.htm.
  24. Masterson, Lee, Casting your characters, Fiction Factor, http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/casting.html.
  25. Swain, Dwight V., Creating Characters, Writer’s Digests Books, Cincinnati, 1990.
  26. Character function, Basics of English Studies, http://www.anglistik.uni-freiburg.de/intranet/englishbasics/Character02.htm.
  27. Character in fiction and drama, http://www.ccsn.nevada.edu/english/lab/CHARACT.htm.
  28. Colburn, Jeff, Who Said That? First, Second or Third-Person Point of View, FictionAddiction.net, http://fictionaddiction.net/articles/contributed/colburnpov.html
  29. Novel, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 2003.
  30. Rosenberg, Joe, Choosing your storyteller, In The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Novel Writing, Ed. By Clark, Tom, William Brohaugh, Bruce Woods, Bill Strickland, and Peter Blocksom, Writer’s Digest Press, Cincinnati, 1992.
  31. Tritt, Sandy, Point of view and other devices, Elements of Craft, Inspiration for Writers, http://tritt.wirefire.com/tip9.html.
  32. Harris, Robert, A glossary of literary terms, VirtualSalt, http://www.virtualsalt.com/litterms.htm, January 4, 2002.
  33. Bickham, Jack M., The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 1992.
  34. Marble, Anne M., Romancing the keyboard, Writing-World.com, http://www.writing-world.com/columns/romance/marble17.shtml, 2004.
  35. Schnelbach, S. and C. S. Wyatt, Tameri Guide for Writers, http://www.tameri.coml, March 14, 2005.
  36. Masterson, Lee, Writing dazzling dialogue, Sci Fi Editor, http://www.scifieditor.com/lee1.htm.
  37. Chiarella, Tom, Writing Dialogue, Story Press, Cincinnati, 1998.
  38. Milhorn, H. Thomas, Caduceus Awry, Writer’s Showcase, San Jose, 2000.
  39. Reuben, Paul, PAL: Perspectives in American Literature, Appendix G: Elements of Fiction, http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/append/AXG.HTML.

 
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